Friday, January 10, 2014

Write What You Know

by Kelly

I spent the evening of January 5th as I’m sure most American’s did, watching the Season 4 premiere of Downton Abbey. Not to sound snobbish or anything, but I’ve been on the Downton band-wagon since it first started airing in America. The main reason for that, aside from being a trend-setter (I wish!), is that I loved Gosford Park another of Julian Fellowes’ films.

I am always astounded at how Fellowes can nail both the upper and lower classes of English society equally well. You only have to read a few of his interviews before you realize he writes these kinds of scripts because this subject matter is second nature to him. He’s writing what he grew up with. Lady Mary Crawley is compilation of various aunts, grandmothers and other relatives who Fellowes either knew or grew up hearing about. Under the stairs Anna Bates is probably a conglomeration of different servants that Fellowes’ friends or family employed.

As a writer, when I watch something like Downton Abbey, I can’t help feeling a little jealous of people like Juilian Fellowes. I mean, how can he not write something amazing. He was born in Cairo to a diplomat father and glamorous mother. After returning to England, he lived snippets of the life he portrays in his scripts and recent book Snobs.

At my critique group last Wednesday I was gently chided by several members that I haven’t been drawing on some of the life experiences I’ve had. Although I’m a writer now, I majored in Sports Medicine before heading off to serve in several different countries, mainly Kosovo with a humanitarian aid organization for five years. My daughter was three when returned to America and my son was one. After returning to Colorado, I got slapped in the face with the enigma of American parenting compared to raising children in a war-torn country.  So … maybe they have a point.  

I think all of us have life experiences that we discount because they seem boring or too familiar, but they offer a wealth of information that I know someone is dying to read. What life experiences have you ignored that are waiting to be tapped?


Sarah Sullivan said...

Love Downton Abbey! Own Gosford Park! Yes, good points about writing what you know. I think your mates in the critique group are right! You must have some great stories and/or settings floating around in your brain from past experiences. So write on!

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of experiences in my life that I could write about, but I'm not ready. Last year, I started a memoir about my six years caring for my late husband who was totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes but had to put it aside. When I'm ready, I'll finish it. Thank you for an interesting post.

Shirley Drew said...

Great post, Kelly! I completely agree that we should write more about our own experiences. And I too, am a fan of Downton Abbey, though I always wait until the season is over, rent it and watch it all at once. Not very patient!

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